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The BBC's Helen Sawyer
The war of words is hotting up
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The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington
"The whole mood in America is shifting"
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Tuesday, 14 March, 2000, 04:37 GMT
Gun control row escalates
Clinton said remarks were a "horrible mistake"
The White House has reacted furiously to allegations that President Clinton is exploiting gun deaths for political purposes.

The response followed a statement made on Sunday by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre alleging that President Clinton was "willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his and his vice president's political agenda".

I haven't seen anything this low in a long time in Washington

Joe Lockhart
He attributed the president's renewed focus on guns to his interest in getting Al Gore elected.

"The pollsters and consultants are telling them, scare suburban women," he said.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart described the charges as "a sick attack", and challenged "right-thinking people" and supporters of the NRA to repudiate the claims.

The president himself said it was easy for his critics to make such comments on television, but not so easy if they met the parents of school shooting victims.

Apology demanded

Vice President Al Gore, currently campaigning in Miami, has demanded an apology from Mr LaPierre.

He said his comments revealed "a kind of sickness at the very heart of the NRA".

I've come to believe that President Clinton needs a certain level of violence in this country

Wayne LaPierre
The new row comes after the head of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the actor Charlton Heston, accused the president of lying after Mr Clinton said the lobby group was an obstacle to public safety.

Mr Heston made the allegation in a new advertising campaign running on network and cable television.

Gun control measures blocked

The BBC Washington correspondent says Mr Clinton is angry because a series of minor gun control measures have become stuck in Congress.

NRA President Charlton Heston
NRA President Charlton Heston
Measures such as child safety locks, a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips and background checks taking up to 72 hours on gun buyers have not yet been approved.

Many congressional Republicans and the NRA want any such checks to be instant, or at least no longer than 24 hours.

Mr LaPierre believes the Clinton administration should concentrate on enforcing the gun control laws on the books rather than seek more laws to control firearms.

America and the Gun
  • A civil liberties issue?
  • Recent legislation
  • What is the NRA?
  • Heston defends laws
  • Correspondents say the issue of gun control is likely to become a theme of the presidential campaign, following the shooting recently of a six-year old girl in a school in Michigan.

    President Clinton last week asked the Republican leaders of Congress to find a compromise on the gun control legislation by April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 killings at Colorado's Columbine High School, where two teenagers killed 12 fellow students, a teacher and themselves.

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    See also:

    07 Jan 00 | Issues
    Campaign issues: Gun law
    01 Mar 00 | Talking Point
    Can guns ever be made safe?
    30 Jul 99 | Americas
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    30 Oct 99 | Americas
    Analysis: What is the NRA?
    01 Mar 00 | Americas
    Firearms: A civil liberties issue?
    05 Feb 00 | Americas
    Clinton targets gun dealers
    07 Mar 00 | Americas
    Clinton sets sights on gun control
    01 Mar 00 | Americas
    Boy killer found gun in bedroom
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    Shootings sparked by 'door rage'
    01 Mar 00 | Americas
    Charlton Heston defends gun laws
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